05.01.2024

Biosourced plastics: what impact on farmland?

Biodegradable bio-based plastics are emerging as a complementary solution to recycling in the fight against pollution. However, in a period where land and water are also becoming critical concerns on a global scale, what impact will the development of biosourced plastics production have on our farmland?

Biosourced plastics: the alternative in the fight against plastic pollution?

Biosourced plastics are made from plant resources such as wheat, maize, sugar cane or potatoes. Because of their lower environmental impact than plastics derived from fossil resources, and the fact that some of them (such as PLA) are also biodegradable, these plastics are emerging as one of the major alternatives in the fight against plastic pollution, especially when recycling is not an option. Composting is emerging as an attractive end-of-life option for plastics that cannot be reused or recycled because they are too thin, soiled, or multi-layered.
However, with this growing popularity, the question arises as to whether the production of biosourced plastics runs the risk of competing with food or feed. Here are a few key figures to help you understand the issue!

The share of bioplastics in annual global plastic production

Source: World plastics production 2021, Plastics Europe, 2022

Of the 460 million tonnes of plastic prduced worldwide each year (source: OECD 2022), only 1 % is used to produce bioplastics.

Land used to produce bioplastics

Source: European Bioplastics 2022

The land used to cultivate renewable raw materials for bioplastics production represents around 0.01% of arable land worldwide.

The development of plant-b ased bioplastics

What about the future? Growing demand for these materials, coupled with the development and marketing of more sophisticated solutions, will drive investment to increase production capacity. Currently, the world produces 2.2 million tonnes a year, and this figure is set to rise to 6.3 million tonnes by 2027 (source: European Bioplastics nova-Institute, 2022).

Despite the expansion of the bioplastics market, particularly in Asia and North America, bioplastics will still only account for 2% of global production (source : European Bioplastics, 2022).

The production of biosourced plastics is therefore not ready to compete with food, whether human or animal. Even if bioplastics production were to increase 100-fold over the next few years, there would be virtually no competition with agricultural land.

Food waste and waste reduction

At the same time, food waste remains a major global challenge, accentuating problems linked to environmental impact. Every year, around a third of the food produced for human consumption, or 1.3 million tonnes, is wasted (source: FAO, 2019). Food waste contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 8% of total global emissions (source: Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, 2020).

 

 

Because of their properties, plastic packaging represents a concrete solution to help reduce this mass of waste. Read our article on the ecological aspects of plastic to find out more.

However, not all plastics are recyclable or biodegradable. PLA’s limitation is its biodegradability, which is only possible under industrial conditions. However, with CARBIOS Active, flexible and rigid PLA packaging becomes 100% compostable, even at room temperature, and thus joins bio-waste when it is collected. The latter can then follow two recovery routes: composting or methanization, thus helping to reduce plastic pollution.

 

Definitions :

  • PLA or Polylactic Acid is a member of the biosourced and biodegradable family of bioplastics, derived from renewable resources such as corn or sugar cane.
  • The term bioplastic refers to two types of materials: biosourced plastics (derived from biomass: agricultural crop residues, sugar cane, potatoes, etc.) and biodegradable plastics, which may be derived from fossil resources (petrochemical reactions).

05.01.2024

Biodegradable bio-based plastics are emerging as a complementary solution to recycling in the fight against pollution. However, in a period where land and water are also becoming critical concerns on a global scale, what impact will the development of biosourced plastics production have on our farmland?

29.11.2023

100% biosourced and biodegradable, PLA is one of the first renewable plastics capable of competing with conventional plastics in terms of both performance and environmental impact! Emitting three times less CO2 and already available on the market, PLA could well contribute to reconciling plastics with the planet. Find out everything you need to know about this bioplastic!